Submission of NGO Monitor to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

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NGO Monitor,1 a project of the Institute for NGO Research, an NGO in special consultative status with ECOSOC since 2013, respectfully submits the following information to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (“Working Group”) for marking the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

NGO Monitor was founded in 2002 in response to the UN World Conference Against Racism (“Durban Conference”). The antisemitism and demonization of Israel on full display at the Durban Conference’s regional preparatory events, State proceedings, and NGO Forum exposed the need for an independent mechanism to assess, scrutinize, and report on the funding and activities of NGOs. Since Durban, NGO Monitor has published hundreds of research studies and articles on the issues of the NGO-UN relationship, NGO funding, human rights, international humanitarian law, and antisemitism.2 For twenty years, our work has been focused on the mission of ensuring that the exploitation of international law and human rights, as well as the antisemitic hatred seen at Durban, will not be repeated.

The Durban Conference Against Racism Becomes an Instrument of Racism

As the Intergovernmental Working Group is aware, the first Durban conference became an instrument for racism itself, particularly directed against Jews and Israel.3 This agenda was driven by Iran and a number of Arab states – using the pre-conference Asian Regional Session to condemn Israel for “holocausts” and “antisemitism” – and primarily by the participants in the virulent NGO Forum. The proceedings were characterized by antisemitic incitement, Holocaust revisionism and denial, and exclusion of Jews from events. The final declaration of the NGO Forum revived the antisemitic “Zionism is racism” canard. The events were so offensive that the US and Israeli government delegations walked out of the conference.

Durban II

The events in 2001 caused several countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, to boycott the 2009 Durban Follow-up Conference (“Durban II”). These countries decided that the Durban process could not be salvaged and universal human rights principles should not be compromised for political expediency. In addition, there was no official NGO Forum. Nevertheless, despite the sincere efforts of some UN officials to prevent it, virulent antisemitism was also on display at Durban II.4 In particular, the conference organizers gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a central platform from which to promote antisemitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories. When Ahmadinejad began his statements, the delegations of the European Union countries and a number of Jewish NGOs walked out of the plenary hall. The Czech Republic joined the list of countries that withdrew from the conference entirely. Afterward, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay repudiated the Iranian leader’s remarks,5 but the damage to the UN was already done.


  1. Members of the Institute’s Advisory Board include Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; former Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Amb. Vivian Bercovici; Amb. John Bolton, US National Security Advisor and former US Permanent Representative to the UN; Hon. Michael Danby, MP, senior member of the Australian Labor Party; Harvard Professor Prof. Alan Dershowitz; Canadian Senator, Hon. Linda Frum; best-selling author and commentator and British journalist and international affairs commentator, Tom Gross; Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, best-selling author and commentator; former Member of Italian Parliament, Hon. Fiamma Nirenstein, UCLA Professor and President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, Prof. Judea Pearl; US Jurist and former Legal Advisor to the State Department Judge Abraham Sofaer; Dr. Einat Wilf, former member of Knesset with the Israel Labor Party and advisor to Shimon Peres; Harvard Professor Prof. Ruth Wisse; R. James Woolsey, former US Director of Central Intelligence; and Israeli Supreme Court Justice, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein.
  2. See our website
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  4. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned these countries for “undermining” the conference. HRW also claimed (without credibility) that there was “no justification for the decision,” and pressed for “engagement.” Prior to Ahmadinejad’s speech, international NGOs (the very same NGOs that enabled the travesty of 2001, including HRW, Amnesty International, and others did not protest the giving the Iranian leader a platform, despite his Holocaust denial and Iran´s dismal human rights record. This lobbying helped legitimize Ahmadinejad´s absurd presence at a conference against racism.
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